Fundulus blairae

western starhead topminnow



Type Locality

Neville Bayou at Texas Hwy. 105, Liberty County, Texas (Wiley and Hall 1975).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Fundulus: from fundus, meaning bottom, though fishes are largely surface oriented (Ross 2001); blairae: named for Blair Knies, for her assistance in field work associated with project (Wiley and Hall 1975).



Fundulus dispar (Agassiz) Knapp1953:89; Hubbs et al. 1991:31 (Texas populations, F. d. blairae).

Fundulus notti notti (Agassiz) Brown 1958:477.

Fundulus dispar blairae Ross 2001:356-357.

Fundulus blairae Wiley and Hall 1975:3; Robison 1977:544; Wiley 1977:20; Warren et al. 2000:19; Nelson et al. (2004).



Maximum size:  65 mm SL (Wiley 1980).


Coloration: Dark, subocular bar; most prominent dark spots on body arranged in more than two lengthwise stripes; body barred or not, but never with a dark spot on dorsal part of caudal peduncle; body without a distinct dark lateral band (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008). Knapp (1953) described males as having small red spots evenly arranged in longitudinal series from head to caudal fin; red spots also on dorsal, anal and caudal fins; no vertical bars on side, a dark blotch below eye and a distinct yellow or cream-colored mark on top of head between eyes. Knapp (1953) described females as olivaceous above to greenish on sides with narrow dark lines running from behind head to caudal fin; no red spots; fins plain. Fundulus blairae from the Red River differ from blairae to the south and west in the subocular teardrop shading and male dot pattern (Wiley and Hall 1975). Males have regular (or irregular rows; Red River pop.) of reddish (brown in preserved specimens) spots on the sides and have larger reddish blotches (brown in preserved specimens) on the membrane between the rays of dorsal, anal and caudal fins; females have seven to nine horizontal lines along the flanks, with many dashes and less discrete melanophore development between the stripes; both sexes with very diffuse or diffuse to solid (in Red River pop.) teardrop (Wiley and Hall 1975).


Counts: 31-39 longitudinal scale rows (for Texas specimens; Hubbs et al. 2008). Wiley (1977) listed the following counts for this species: 10 (8-11) anal fin rays; 7 (6-8) dorsal fin rays; 13 (11-14) pectoral fin rays; 33 (30-36) lateral line scales.


Mouth position: Mouth opening flush with top of head (Knapp 1953).


Body shape: Slender body; dorsal fin originating distinctly behind vertical from origin of anal fin (Knapp 1953). Eye contained fewer than one and one-half times in snout; gill slit extending dorsal to uppermost pectoral fin ray; distance from origin of dorsal fin to end of hypural plate less than distance from origin of dorsal fin to preopercle or occasionally about equal to that distance (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008).


External morphology: G-type squamation on head (Wiley and Hall 1975; Wiley 1977); pores 4a and 4b of the supraorbital sensory canal present and widely separated (Wiley 1977).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Drainages of the northern Gulf of Mexico (Hubbs et al. 2008).


Texas distribution: Ranges from the Red River southward to the Brazos River near College Station (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008). Warren et al. (2000) listed the following drainage units for distribution of Fundulus blairae in the state: Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River), Sabine Lake (including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay), Galveston Bay (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Brazos River), Brazos River.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Populations in the southern United States are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Swamps, barrow ditches, sloughs and streams (Wiley and Hall 1975; Wiley 1980). Ross (2001) reported collection of most individuals (in Mississippi) from oxbow lakes, beaver ponds, or at the mouths of small creeks. Miller and Robison (2004) collected specimens from oxbows and roadside ditches in Oklahoma.


Mesohabitat: Occurs in clear water, in shoreline vegetation, areas of slow current (Wiley and Hall 1975; Robison 1977; Wiley 1980; Linam and Kleinsasser 1987).


Biology – has not been studied for this species.


Spawning season:


Spawning habitat:


Reproductive strategy:




Age at maturation






Food habits:  Miller and Robison (2004) stated that the species is undoubtedly a surface-feeding insectivore.




Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Subgenus Zygonectes (Wiley 1986). Fundulus blairae and the starhead topminnow (F. dispar) are sister species (Wiley 1977; Wiley 1986; Ghedotti and Grose 1997), based on their relatively derived head squamation pattern (G-type) and a lack or virtual lack of vertical bars on the flank of females (Wiley and Hall 1977). F. dispar is not found in the state of Texas.


Host Records



Commercial or Environmental Importance




Brown, J. L. 1958. Geographic variation in southeastern populations of the cyprinodont fish Fundulus notti (Agassiz). American Midland Naturalist 59(2): 477-488.

Ghedotti, M. J., and Grose, M. J. 1997. Phylogenetic relationships of the Fundulus notti species group (Fundulidae, Cyprinodontiformes) as inferred from the cytochrome b gene. Copeia 1997(4)858-862.

Hubbs, C., R. J. Edwards, and G. P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to the identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.


Hubbs, C., R.J. Edwards, and G.P. Garrett. 2008. An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement, 2nd edition 43(4):1-87.


Knapp, F.T. 1953. Fishes found in the freshwater of Texas. Ragland Studio and Litho Printing Co., Brunswick. 166 pp.

Linam, G. W., and L. J. Kleinsasser. 1987. Fisheries Use Attainability Study for Cow Bayou (Segment 0511). River Studies Report No. 5. Resource Protection Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, 14 pp.

Miller, R.J., and H.W. Robison. 2004. Fishes of Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 450 pp.


Nelson, J.S., E.J. Crossman, H. Espinoza-Perez, L.T. Findley, C.R. Gilbert, R.N. Lea, and J.D. Williams. 2004. Common and Scientific Names of Fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 29, Bethesda, Maryland.


Robison, H.W. 1977. Fundulus blairae Wiley and Hall (Cyprinodontidae) in Arkansas. The Southwestern Naturalist 22(4):544.

Ross, S.T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 624 pp.

Warren, M.L., Jr., B.M. Burr, S.J. Walsh, H.L. Bart, Jr., R.C. Cashner, D.A. Etnier, B.J. Freeman, B.R. Kuhajda, R.L. Mayden, H.W. Robison, S.T. Ross, and W.C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, Distribution, and Conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States. Fisheries, Conservation. 25(10):7-29.

Wiley, E.O. and D.D. Hall. 1975. Fundulus blairae, a new species of the Fundulus notti complex (Teleostei: Cyprinodontidae). Amer. Mus. Novit. 2577:1-13.

Wiley, E.O. 1977. They phylogeny and systematics of the Fundulus notti species group (Teleostei: Cyprinodontidae). Occasional Papers of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas 66:1-31.

Wiley, E.O. 1980. Fundulus blairae (Wiley and Hall), Blair’s starhead topminnow. pp. 508 in D. S. Lee, et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N. C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raliegh, 854 pp.

Wiley, E.O. 1986. A study of the evolutionary relationship of Fundulus topminnows (Teleostei: Fundulidae). Amer. Zool. 26(1):121-130.